Leticia Van de Putte waves to the crowd as she exits a vehicle. Photo by Scott Ball.

The election ended, but it’s not over yet: now the runoff has begun. The runoff is where we actually decide who will become our next mayor. You all need to vote this time. Early voting begins June 1 and continues through June 9. Election Day is June 13. Mark it on your calendar. I previously wrote a commentary in support of former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, specifically remarking on her support for the arts, and music in particular. In the piece, I cautioned about the effect of splitting the vote between Mike Villarreal and Van de Putte would have for the progressive community of San Antonio: the potential election of incumbent Mayor Ivy Taylor. Now, this possibility is imminent.

SOCIAL MEDIA SUPPORTERS?

After I submitted my commentary, Robert Rivard submitted the most comprehensive, well-balanced piece about all of the candidates. Even as a Van de Putte supporter, I admire, respect, and philosophically agree with Mike’s vision for San Antonio. My belief in Van de Putte’s experience and track record, on the other hand, ultimately led to my full support for her. Belief is not enough, however, now is the time for us all to act. We are at a very precarious crossroads in San Antonio. We can collectively move forward as an entire community, or digress to an era that divided our community in pieces, and sub-communities that compose our city, keeping us isolated in pockets from one another.

Now is the time to join together to exercise our right en masse, but it’s going to take more than posting on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, or even writing a commentary on the Rivard Report. We all need to vote.

The only thing worse than Villarreal dropping out of the election would be Taylor winning the mayoral race. Taylor is directly responsible for overseeing the loss of two viable forms of public transportation (rideshare and streetcar), while also fostering discrimination against our city’s LGBTQ community. In the lead up to the election, Villarreal had more support on social media, by far, than any of the other candidates in the race, yet sadly, his social media supporters did not all vote. Rivard’s article was shared nearly 2,000 times via social media, but many Mike “followers” did not show up at the polls.

Janie Martinez Gonzalez, mayoral candidate Mike Villarreal and MrPiñataSA pose for a photo during the 2nd annual Webhead Cascarón Bash at Alamo Beer Company. Photo by Scott Ball.
Janie Martinez Gonzalez, mayoral candidate Mike Villarreal and MrPiñataSA pose for a photo during the second annual Webhead Cascarón Bash at Alamo Beer Company. Photo by Scott Ball.

Regardless of the excuse, the statistics don’t lie. Voters between the ages of 18-35 only accounted for approximately 5% of the vote, and the demographic between 36-50 only comprised about 13% of the total vote. This means 82% of the people who decide your future are over the age of 50 years old. This is embarrassing for us as a community. How can we collectively lament the shortcomings of our city’s governance, yet simultaneously fail to exercise our own investment in the community through a vote itself? Do we really want change in the community, or do we just want to passively complain about bad decision-making at City Hall in hindsight? If you fall into the former category, you need to show up and exercise your right to vote. Failing to do so is tantamount to deferring to your parents and grandparents to make life and community decisions on your behalf, because you don’t feel capable of doing so on your own. Isn’t it time we start making decisions for ourselves?

YOU NEED TO VOTE

In Rivard’s most recent piece, which makes mention of the lack of voting Millenials, many readers commented about how hard it is to vote. Ironically, they are whining through an electronic medium (i.e. phone or computer) where they could just as easily look up a polling location for early voting, and bike/walk/bus/drive there with an identification card. I sincerely hope all of the whining about how voting should be easier is not one big excuse to be apathetic and lazy about elections going on right now. Election reform takes time, and lack of participation will not bring about the required change we all want — it will actually perpetuate the problem.

Converting social media traffic into actual voters at the polls hasn’t yet happened, but the opportunity to do so is now. Let’s make it happen and show up to vote this time. It’s absolutely critical for voters to show up to vote. While I realize there is still a sting from Mike’s loss, it’s over now, and time to move on. The future of our city is at stake, but still in your hands.

Again, I agreed with Mike Villarreal’s overall vision for San Antonio, but chose to fully support Van de Putte based on her experience, track record, and overall leadership on behalf of San Antonio. Now the race is between Van de Putte and interim Mayor Ivy Taylor. By any standard of measurement, Van de Putte is the best candidate for our city.

ISSUES:

POLICE UNION CONTRACT

Mike Beldon’s previous commentary falsely accused Van de Putte of “talking out of both sides of her mouth” on the police contracts, but fails to offer any evidence to support such a claim. Contrarily, Van de Putte is the only candidate with 24 years of experience bringing people to the negotiating table and getting big things done, unlike Taylor who lacks the experience to engage in these types of high level negotiations.

Van de Putte can get a balanced contract with the police union done – not solely out of fairness to our first responders and fiscal responsibility, but because San Antonians deserve it. If Van de Putte had already been mayor, these negotiations would not have devolved into this level of contentiousness. I know Van de Putte, and her number one priority is offering due respect to each and every person, on both sides of the table. In his commentary, Beldon seems to advocate for litigation. As an attorney, with a background in litigation, I can assure the readers that lawsuits are used as a last resort when all other efforts to achieve resolution have failed. If a lawsuit is necessary in this instance, then it’s because there’s been a failure in interim Mayor Taylor’s leadership to resolve the matter. We need Leticia to bring all sides back to the bargaining table. Let’s start from there.

LEADERSHIP FOR THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY

Beldon goes on in his commentary to criticize Van de Putte’s position in front of the Wednesday Morning Breakfast Group, which, according to Beldon, is a collection of “our city’s business leaders with a deep commitment to this city’s growth and prosperity.” But how does her appearance in front of one elite faction within the city reflect her representation for the public at-large? Van de Putte is a voice for the people, all of the people. This includes the business elite at the Wednesday Morning Breakfast Group, as well as the general public who is not invited to attend these special meetings. Particular allegiance to one group over another is not how we need to collectively bring our city together.

Her opposition to the property tax bill passed in 2013 demonstrates a fundamental understanding of the actual effect of the bill, which can potentially cost homeowners more money in the long run.

Both Van de Putte and Taylor previously said they wouldn’t run for mayor. At best, they reconsidered, and chose an alternate path for the community. At worst, they misrepresented themselves to the public ahead of time. In either scenario, the issue is moot, because they both did it.

Van de Putte did nothing ethically or legally wrong when transferring funds from her state campaign account to her local one. So why is this even relevant? The fact remains it is not. It’s another attempt to detract from the real issues and matters that affect the San Antonio community and the citizens here.

LGBT RIGHTS

As far as the NDO is concerned, Taylor said she voted to represent her district. Well that’s a claim verging on ridiculous. State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, Councilmember Alan Warrick II (D2), and Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct.4) – all from Taylor’s district/precinct – have each decided to fully support Van de Putte in this election. How can she claim that she has “voted her district” when none of her colleagues in her community/district/precinct support her in this election? The Eastside leadership view her as a failure to the community.

Leticia Van de Putte and Allan Warrick II. Photo by Scott Ball.
Councilmember Allan Warrick II (D2) endorses Leticia Van de Putte for her bid for mayor across the street from the Friedrich Building. Photo by Scott Ball.

Van de Putte has been a leader of LGBTQ rights at the state level. When she was sworn in as Governor of Texas for a day, she urged her legislative colleagues to pass her Senate Bill 237 (2013), which would ban employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender expression.

“Someday, there will be a portrait of a Texas hero on these walls, and he or she may just happen to be gay,” Van de Putte said, adding that state legend Sam Houston, whose Bible she used to administer her oath of office, was a champion for Native Americans’ rights, and she pledged to do the same for gay rights.

TRANSPORTATION

Mayor Taylor has specifically been responsible for San Antonio losing two viable forms of public transportation: the streetcar and rideshare. Frankly, her biggest legacy as interim mayor has been her failure to address drunk driving in this city by effectively killing one form of public transportation and chasing away another.

On the other hand, Van de Putte supports fully expanding transportation options. This includes expanding VIA’s multi-modal options like park and rides and bus rapid transit. She will work to bring rideshare companies back to San Antonio, while also making investments in the maintenance of streets and bridges.

On a larger scale, Van de Putte supports the Lone Star Rail Project. She recognizes how this has the most potential of any proposed project to alleviate traffic and stimulate economic growth up and down the I-35 corridor.

Even if Taylor convenes yet another advisory council on Uber and Lyft in an attempt to resolve the matter, it’s not a solution. It’s another attempt to stall negotiations even further. We can’t afford to allow Taylor to stall or impede meaningful negotiations, while drunk drivers ruin the lives of victims and their families on a daily basis in San Antonio. Any delay on matters regarding public transportation is contrary to public policy and safety. Beginning anew, Van de Putte will find a solution that satisfies both public safety needs and allows these companies to operate in San Antonio.

Uber supporters rally outside City Council Chambers. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Uber supporters rally outside City Council Chambers before City Council’s vote that approved rideshare regulations on March 5, 2015. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

LEADERSHIP & EXPERIENCE

In his commentary, Beldon condescendingly distinguishes the candidates by alleging Taylor doesn’t have Van de Putte’s grasp of “retail politics.” I’m unclear what this quote precisely means without further definition, but I would also contend that Taylor doesn’t have Van de Putte’s grasp of leadership altogether: the core tenet we need for anyone who is serving as our mayor. Van de Putte’s record is replete with accomplishments that have benefitted the city and community of San Antonio.

She has served in the legislature for more than 24 years fortifying the vitality of San Antonio at the state level:

  • She secured funding for UTSA Downtown Campus, as well as the UT Health Science Center,
  • raised $200 million in funding for the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute,
  • passed anti-bullying legislation,
  • legislation to support veterans job training,
  • established veterans courts,
  • helped pass the Better Jobs Act which allowed cities to invest in education and job training for Pre-K 4 SA,
  • helped pass legislation to allow cities and counties to build community arenas like the AT&T Center.

Van de Putte is prime to provide the leadership to articulate, implement and coordinate a plan to cultivate opportunity, foster innovation, and offer San Antonians across all demographics the tools to reach their potential. For the business community, she will provide a better means of facilitating a more efficient permitting process, as well smooth the working relationships between businesses and SAWS, CPS, and the City. Small and medium sized businesses are important engines of our economic growth; City leadership must continuously engage their concerns and foster a predictable regulatory climate.

For job seekers, Van de Putte wants to focus on educational pipelines for training the quality employees that businesses require. City Hall can help educate, train, and retrain San Antonians to fill high-skill, high-paying jobs. By 2020 65% of all jobs in this country will require some type of post high school credential. We must support a local workforce that is constantly learning and upgrading its skills.

MILITARY & VETERANS

As the daughter of a veteran and the Chair of the Senate Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee for 11 years, Van de Putte realizes the families of service members also make great sacrifices. San Antonio is known as “Military City” but she will work to ensure we earn the title of “Veteran City” for being the best city in the country for veterans and their families. Among other accomplishments

  • Van de Putte passed the College Credit for Heroes Bill in 2011, which assists in translating military training to college credit, realizing veterans need greater academic recognition in the civilian world from certifications received in the military.
  • When in office, city hall will encourage higher education programs for cybersecurity, cultivating a local talent pipeline for the industry’s growth and positioning San Antonio as a national leader.

WATER SUPPLY

Van de Putte, knows each drop of water conserved is a drop of water you don’t have to pay for later. She wants to see SA continue a robust conservation strategy to lead the state.

Specifically for the Vista Ridge Pipeline, she wants to see it’s implemented properly and efficiently, so any cost overruns or burdens do not fall on rate-payers.

ANIMAL CARE

Van de Putte knows preventative approaches are the best ways to lower costs and avoid bad outcomes.

Aggressive spay neuter programs, education and enforcement have proven to yield results. She seeks to expand these investments moving us closer toward the goal of 100% live release.

CONCLUSION

On every single relevant issue that pertains to our community,  Van de Putte stands head shoulders above all others as the superior candidate for Mayor of San Antonio. No one comes close to her level of experience or track record as a civic leader representing the citizens of San Antonio at-large. Van de Putte does not pander to any one group, but rather, seeks to bring all groups together for the greater good of our San Antonio community. I urge readers to support her for Mayor when early voting commences on June 1.

*Featured/top image: Leticia Van de Putte waves to supporters as she exits a vehicle on the Eastside.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

Related Stories:

Mike Villarreal: You Choose the Next Mayor

Taylor and Van de Putte Tangle at UTSA Forum

Eastside’s Leadership Endorses LVP for Mayor

Mike Beldon: Why I Now Support Ivy Taylor

Blayne Tucker

Blayne Tucker is a lawyer and small business owner. He is the founder and president of the North St. Mary’s Business Owners Association, a board member of the Tobin Hill Community Association, and a...